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Volume 60 / Humanities


19th and 20th Centuries: Bolivia

ERICK D. LANGER, Professor of History, Georgetown University

BOLIVIAN HISTORIOGRAPHY ADVANCED tremendously since HLAS 58, with a much more equal distribution of work between the 19th and 20th centuries. In the past few years, the emphasis on the construction of the nation-state has clearly benefited 19th-century Bolivian history, largely ignored until now except for traditional political history and the history of indigenous groups. Another marked characteristic is that most research, other than biographies, has been published in article rather than book form. Part of the reason for this trend has been the publication of three volumes of essays, one on the 19th century (item #bi2001001273#) and two on the 20th century (Bolivia en el siglo XX—item #bi2003002339# and Visiones de fin de siglo—item #bi2003004187#). These collections of essays will be important references for years to come. In addition, the Bolivian National Archives has published many articles in its annual Anuario, several of which are annotated in this chapter, constituting an additional outlet for historical research.

Historians have made advances in the study of 19th-century mining, politics, the eastern frontiers, indigenous peoples, and economics. Nineteenth-century mining has received the most attention with works by Platt, who has examined mining technology from an anthropological perspective (items #bi2003004180#, #bi 99000654#, and #bi2003004181#); Bravo Quezada, who studied Chilean investments in Caracoles (items #bi2003000431# and #bi2003002342#); and others who turned to the study of mining complexes (items #bi2003003401#, #bi2003004175#, and #bi2003004184#). The "Indian problem" as intellectual history has been the subject of Larson (item #bi2003004176#) as well as Mariaca Iturri (item #bi2001006682#) and Irurozqui (item #bi 00004985#). Calderón Jemio has begun to publish parts of his excellent dissertation on the indigenous communities in the Altiplano in the 19th century (item #bi 98009860#). Mendieta Parada published a masterful essay on the reasons for the 1899 Indian rebellion (item #bi 00006493#). Platt summarized his influential arguments about indigenous communities, making clear how they relate to the present (item #bi2001001234#). And Martínez shows how the elites tried to integrate the Indians into the nation by "civilizing" them through education at the beginning of the 20th century (item #bi 99009379#).

Irurozqui continued to publish extensively on 19th-century political history, including an attempt to show why democracy failed in Bolivia during that period (items #bi2003002338# and #bi 00007531#) and, with Peralta Ruiz, examined caudillo rule as a relatively constructive political system (item #bi2002002363#). Pérez also added to the analysis of caudillo rule under Belzu and its economic basis (item #bi2003004178#). Richard likewise tackled Belzu, but examined his failed attempt to marshal the support of the Catholic Church (item #bi2003004183#). The 19th-century history of the eastern regions is beginning to fall under the study of a solid group of historians. In addition to the above-cited Pérez article that deals with cinchona bark on the eastern frontier, García Jordán has published two essays on the mission experience, one on the Guarayos in central Bolivia and the other on the overall institutional and legislative context of the missions (items #bi2003002341# and #bi2003000437#, respectively). General essays by geographer Roux (item #bi2001001235#) and Langer (item #bi2003003400#) round out the works on the eastern frontiers.

Economic history appears to be making a splash, with essays on the railroads (item #bi2003002343#), and arguments about the validity of Mitre, Platt, and Langer's theses about the effects of adulterated coinage in 19th-century development (items #bi2003004174# and #bi2003004182#). Soux shows that colonial trade patterns persisted in the La Paz area (item #bi 98005777#). Arze Cuadros analyzes the economic aspects of the power struggle between Sucre and La Paz (item #bi 98016452#).

The 20th century continues to attract primarily the attention of political historians. The most important form of political history for this period is biography and here, the book form reigns supreme. These biographies range from that of a Cochabamba peasant leader (item #bi2002002352#) and a Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario (MNR) leader, Carlos Montenegro (item #bi2001001282#), to those of former presidents Enrique Herzog (item #bi2001001281#), Hernán Siles Zuazo (item #bi2001001301#), Víctor Paz Estenssoro (item #bi2001001295#), and Lydia Gueiler (item #bi2001001284#). An important book on the assassination of leftist President Juan José Torres receives treatment (item #bi2001001280#), and Che Guevara is never forgotten, with the publication of a lengthy interview of Rodolfo Saldaña, one of the urban organizers for Che's guerrilla band (item #bi2002002353#). Most useful is a very complete bibliographical essay on the Guevara oeuvre by Soria Galvarro (item #bi2003004186#). Gordillo provides a detailed historical treatment of the Cochabamba peasant movement after the 1952 Revolution, which also takes into account gender relations (item #bi2003002344#).

Mine labor received some attention, but less than previously, perhaps because of its lessening importance in Bolivia's economy. Ibáñez Rojo adds to the theoretical literature, providing reasons for militancy of the mine labor (item #bi2002002364#), whereas Rodríguez Ostria focuses on labor's destruction over the past two decades (item #bi2001005514#). Cajías provides a fine summary of miners' political activities from the 1960s to 1971 (see HLAS 58:2713). An important addition is Chilean historians Pinto Vallejos and Valdivia's explanation of why Chileans flooded the labor market on the Bolivian Pacific coast prior to the War of the Pacific and their reasons for maintaining their Chilean identities (item #bi2003004179#).

The history of Bolivian women finally receives some attention. In addition to Gueiler's biography (item #bi2001001284#), María Luisa Sánchez Bustamente de Urioste, another important MNR leader, merits a biography (item #bi2001001306#) as part of a series of woman artists and politicians' biographies written by members of the Coordinadora de Historia and issued by the Secretaría de Asuntos Étnicos, de Género y Generacionales. Gotkowitz shows the ambivalence towards women and also cholas in turn-of-the-century Cochabamba (item #bi2003002345#), a topic that Romero Pittari also broaches among the literary set (item #bi2003002346#).

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